2017-08-18 / Community

In the Know

FISHING FOR DOLLARS — South Portland has won a $30,000 Shore and Harbor Planning Grant from the Maine Coastal Program, a division of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The money will be used to create a master plan for the Portland Street Pier, a city-owned facility in Ferry Village that currently has low-cost slips for 13 for local lobster boats. The plan is expected to determine how, and perhaps even if, the pier can be expanded to support a wider array of aquaculture and fishing industries. It will also try to identify resources, ongoing capital expense and maintenance needs.

“This is excellent news,” said City Manager Scott Morelli. “This will help the city properly target its limited resources to ensure the pier is well maintained and adds as much value to the community and local economy as possible.”

According to an Aug. 7 press release, the city plans to partner with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, which will assist with a needs assessment and economic feasibility analysis for the project.

“Responsible development and integration of wild and farmed fisheries is crucial to Maine’s marine economy,” said the institute’s Aquaculture Program Manager, Chris Vonderweidt. “We’re excited to support this investment in our local working waterfront.”

JETPORT NOISE — If the noise of airplanes coming in and out of Portland International Jetport has seemed greater than usual of late, that’s because it has been. In a recent email to the city, Jetport Assistant Operatons Manager Jennifer Dunphy said the main runway, 11-29, has been shut down from 12:30 to 5:30 a.m., daily, for “necessary safety improvements” done when the control tower is closed and most flights have parked for the night.

Runway 1-29 also has been closed from 8:30 p.m. until midnight, “when the weather allows for it.” Instead, flights have been coming and going when those runways have been closed using runway 18-36. That, Dunphy acknowledged, has created more jet noise that usual for people living on the north and south sides of the jetport. However, Dunphy said the upgrade project should be complete by this week, creating a sharp reduction in noise for those who’ve noticed the uptick.

APPOINTMENTS — At its Aug. 7 meeting, the South Portland City Council filled two of eight openings on volunteer committees.

Unanimously appointed to the economic development committee was Sawyer Street resident David Canarie. A vice president and managing counsel for UNUM, Canarie replaces Peter Stocks, who recently resigned. Meanwhile, Cara Biddings, also an attorney, was tapped for a new tour of duty on the zoning board of appeals.

The city currently has two vacancies on the board of assessment review and two on the energy and recycling committee, as well as one, each, on the community development advisory committee and the arts and historic preservation committee. Councilors have been particularly unlucky in finding willing souls for the assessment review committee, with one seat vacant since March 2016.

In 2014 the council amended rules for serving on most committees, allowing councilors to appoint any city resident, so long as no group gets too packed with folks for one geographic area. However, voters that November rejected a similar change to the two groups specifically mentioned in the city charter, the board of assessment review and the civil service commission. As a result, each councilor can still only make appointments from within their own voting district. The board of assessment review seat open for more than 16 months belongs to District 2, represented by Mayor Patti Smith. The prospective appointee will serve an unexpired term to March 2019. The other available seat is the responsibility of District 5 councilor Brad Fox. Open since January, its term ends in December 2019.

Applications for any of the openings can be submitted through the city website, www.southportland.org.

SIDEWALK SEATING — The South Portland City Council voted Aug. 7 to grant two outdoor seating licenses, allowing Deb’s Sandwich Shop, at 528 Main St., and Maine Ice Cream, at 520 Main St., to place picnic tables on the city sidewalk.

“My understanding is this was already happening, this ($25 permit) just formalizes it,” said City Manager Scott Morelli.

Following a 2013 pilot program with CIA Café on Ocean Street, the city council voted the following year to extend the outdoor seating privilege to businesses citywide, from April to October, provided that a 36-inch-wide path be kept clear for pedestrians. Three years later, word has not circulated to all corners that a permit is now required.

“You’ve almost feel like it has to happen,” Councilor Maxine Beecher said, noting not just the fact that the tables have been out on the sidewalk for a while, but the reason the council agreed to allow the practice by formalizing a process.

“You drive by now and you expect to see people out there. It’s very friendly looking,” she said.

NEW NAME — To honor the only resident of Acton Street, 91-year-old World War II veteran Ronald McLaughlin, the South Portland City Council at its Aug. 7 meeting voted unanimously to rename the street McLaughlin Way, while changing the house number from 16 to 1. Located off Cash Street, with an intersection on Robert Mills Road, the short dead-end street was built as part of the city’s earliest subdivisions, Cash Park, created in 1916. According to McLaughlin’s grandson, Steven McLaughlin Jr., who made the name change request, McLaughlin bought what was then a one-room building just a few years after it was built in 1953. He then spent countless hours expanding the frame to its current shape, working nights around a full time job at a local box factory, to move his young family from a Portland apartment. But even then the work was not finished.

“It took years for him to save the money to live in the house and put in a basement, and years to add a second floor,” Steven McLaughlin Jr. wrote in a July 5 letter to the council. “We would like to see if this street (name) could be changed in tribute to the amazing life my grandparents lived and the countless generations of McLaughlin family who will live in this house as the years go on.”

Police Chief Ed Googins and Fire Chief James Wilson said the change will not create E-911 confusion for either of their departments. City Manager Scott Morelli said research could turn up no historical significance to the Acton Street name.

“We’re very honored to rename this street in your honor sir,” Mayor Patti Smith told McLaughlin. “Hopefully the Google car will drive by soon to update everybody’s maps.”

BID REJECTED — The South Portland City Council agreed unanimously Aug. 7 to reject the lowest bid for a new one-ton 4x4 track with plow attachment, to be used by the fire department. The lower of four submitted bids ($38,737) came from Central Auto Team of Raynham, Massachusetts, while the second lowest ($39,263) was turned by South Portland-based Yankee Ford.

“This is a little unusual, but I feel very comfortable with it,” said Councilor Maxine Beecher.

According to City Manager Scott Morelli, that $526 difference was hardly worth the drive south to pick up the cheaper vehicle.

“We believe the indirect cost of staff time and travel will actually outweigh the minimal amount of savings there is,” he told the council.

Fire Chief James Wilson also noted that going with Yankee Ford means in-town service, with the dealerships able to service the Dodge Ram offered by by the Massachusetts bidder are in Westbrook, Saco, and Brunswick.

“This will make getting any warranty work challenging,” Wilson wrote in a July 26 memo to Morelli.

The council had budgeted $40,000 for the purchase as part of the city’s capital improvement projects budget for the current fiscal year. Morelli’s guidance to the council did not name the other two bidders, only that the high bid was for $43,129. The new truck will replace a 2003 GMC decommissioned last summer due to the cost of repairs. The fire department had used the truck since 2010, getting it as a hand-me-down from the water resource department.

The new truck will be used for “plowing initially during storms at each of the five (fire) stations, transfer equipment to fire scenes, run errands, and other types of things,” Morelli said.

NEW BUY — South Portland has purchased a rapid detection chemical analyzer, able to detect explosives, narcotics and other hazardous material by scanning through sealed opaque containers.

“Right now we are relying on other departments in the area when we have a hazardous substance or something that’s unknown and that can delay response times and potentially put officers and first responders in danger,” said City Manager Scott Morelli.

The contract for the unit, awarded as a sole source bid to Cobalt Light Systems of Reston, Virginia, will cost $60,731. The council had budgeted $40,000 as part of the city’s capital improvement projects budget for the current fiscal year. The rest of the money will come from South Portland’s annual allotment from the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency ($12,000), and the remainder ($8,731) from leftover funds in a fiscal year 2015 Department of Homeland Security grant for public safety equipment.

Fire Chief James Wilson said the unit, used exclusively by the New York City Fire Department, “should serve us for many years to come without any issues. They (Cobalt) have offered us unlimited upgrades.”

NO BUTTS, BUT . . . — What seemed at first to be a simple housekeeping vote to update an official list of parks, beaches and outdoor recreational facilities owned and/or maintained by South Portland, hit a snag at the Aug. 7 city council meeting.

In addition to changing the name of Willard Park to Santo “Sam” DiPietro Memorial Park, the plan was to add seven places seen as municipal sites but not on the official list, which was last edited in 2011. Among those properties was the South Portland Municipal Golf Course. The bugaboo, however, is that by acknowledging in the official parks list what has been true for decades, the golf course would become subject to a city ordinance that bans tobacco products from within 20 feet of all outdoor public spaces.

“One could make an argument that the South Portland Municipal Golf Course is an outdoor recreational facility and subject to that. However, the practice has not been to enforce the no-smoking order there,” said City Manager Scott Morelli. “This has led to a larger discussion over whether this council wishes to have that be a tobacco-free facility.”

“There are a lot of issues here,” said Councilor Claude Morgan. “(City staff) is trying to craft some all-encompassing language and there are some problems that probably need some council guidance, and I think we should do it right.”

Morgan then moved to postpone the item for a more in-depth workshop discussion. However, with Morelli unable to name a specific date for a future meeting on the topic, Councilor Eben Rose said per parliamentary procedure, a vote to table indefinitely essentially killed the item, more-or-less permanently. That being the case, the council voted instead to simply withdraw the topic from that night’s agenda. When the issue might be re-addressed was left up in the air.

The draft list contained 24 named parks and public spaces, including the previously listed Bug Light Park, Clarks Pond Trail System, Firefighters Park, Greenbelt Park, High Street Park, Hinckley Park, Legere Park, Legion Square, Mill Creek Park, Pierce Street Park, School Street Park, the Spring Point Shoreway, Thomas Knight Park, the Wainwright Recreation Complex, and Willard Beach, as well as the renamed DiPietro Park. Proposed for addition to the list are Anthoine Creek Park, Fisherman’s Point, Arvin “Ge” Erskine Memorial Park, the public tennis courts, Ridgeland Heights, Sawyer Park, and the municipal golf course.

– Compiled by Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington

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